Coordinators looking for consistency

SEATTLE - Washington Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer admitted Saturday night that he was looking forward to going home, relaxing and watching ESPN that night. His defense had played a big role in Washington's 24-10 victory over No. 20 Boise State earlier in the day, and Baer was ready to catch up on some sleep.

"I didn't sleep this week," he said, matter-of-factly. "That's one of the hardest weeks of preparation we've had, because we threw so much at them."

The reason being? The Broncos like to mix things up on every snap, throwing different formations, different shifts, different looks at every turn. And the goal? "They try to out-smart you, they try to get you out of something, and I wasn't going to let that happen to us," Baer said. "We were going to force the issue."

And while he didn't exactly throw 10 guys in the box, daring BSU to throw - he was bent on making sure Bronco running back Ian Johnson did not get his eight-straight 100-yard game in Husky Stadium. And he succeeded, limiting the pre-season All-America candidate to 81 yards on 20 carries.

"We worked on the run a lot last week," Baer said. "You have to stop the run, that's what makes everything else work. For the most part we did. I'm really proud of the way they played. I told them that they are going to make mistakes, there's no getting around that. But if they were going to make them, make them fast and physical."

And on the opposite side of the line, Washington Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano talked Saturday about the importance of the run, and how the Huskies desperately need to establish the run to do what they want to do offensively. "We have to be able to run the ball," he said. "It takes a lot of pressure off of (Jake Locker). If we can run it like we did last week, it takes a lot of the pressure off.

But Louis Rankin didn't have an orange crush like he did at Syracuse. His 45 yards on 17 carries (only nine yards in the second half) tasted more like watered down Yoo-hoo. And after scoring 24 points in the first half, the SS Husky went dead in the water.

"They (Boise State) did a good job of fire zone blitzing," Lappano said. "We had some mistakes. It wasn't good enough."

And that brings us to key word No. 1 - consistency. "We were inconsistent last year, and that's my thing this year - to be more consistent," Baer said. "We have a whole lot of football left to play, and there are going to be some days where we just don't play all that well...that's just the nature of the game. We're not that veteran in some spots. We played a great football team that does a lot of things offensively. I thought we handled all of that pretty well. I just want to be at a consistent level where that gives us a chance to win all the time. That's what matters to me. The yards and all that, it doesn't matter to me. If we keep them out of the red zone, I'm good with the rest."

Baer got an up-front look at his squad in action, coaching from the sidelines. "We have some really young linebackers to help once in a while," he said when asked about their decision to move him from the booth. "It was fun to sit on the bench with them between series and settle them in and make adjustments, and they did a nice job of it. The key to playing well against that offense is that the linebackers and safeties have to adjust, and they did a good job."

Lappano is up in the booth, so he gets to sit in one of the best seats in the house. So how was the view?

"We were moving the ball up and down the field," he said. "They started firing the pressure on us right before the end of the half. We knew it was coming. We had some runs lined up for it, but had some misreads. It's just execution. We were fine in the first half. The second half, we just didn't execute very well.

"We use the term 'If it doesn't fit, don't force it'. We have to make sure he (Locker) is reading his progressions right. I think the competition level went up a little bit. And I think the game was a little faster than last week. The strength of that defense was their secondary."

Montlake Jake made his share of mistakes - an interception and fumble chief among them - but has the uncanny ability to shake it off like a pitcher shaking off a sign. "We might have lost that game a couple of years ago," Lappano said. "But to beat the good teams, you can't turn the ball over. He didn't hang his head, he just goes into the next play like the great ones do."

And another fact attributed to all the great ones - they all started out not so great. And Lappano is not going to burn out his starter too quickly by putting him out on the wire without a net. "I'm still not ready to open it up and have him fire all over the place," he said. "I'm reluctant to put him in those situations. It's going to come, but right now I don't feel like I want to do that with him a whole lot. We're still easing him into this thing. We have 99 percent of the playbook in, but how aggressive do I want to call a game? I have to be smart with it. I try not to put him in tough situations, and I might have been more conservative in the second half, but I don't want bad things to happen. We don't want to do that to him."

And we have arrived at key word No. 2 - simplicity. The Washington coordinators threw the playbook at the young ones this fall, and you needed a Batchelor Degree in Bronco Busting to get through the Boise State test. With Ohio State looming on the horizon, it's all about getting back to basics - especially on defense.

"We were trying to keep everything in front of us, and we only gave up one big play," Baer said of the BSU game. "It was fun. It felt like it was just a couple plays away from tying it up. And as long as the kids know that and aren't playing tight, it builds character. It will make us better down the stretch."

"They messed with him (Locker) a little bit," Lappano said of BSU's defensive game plan. "They did a good job of giving him a lot of looks. They pressured and disrupted him."

It's doubtful that Ohio State will try to out-scheme, bamboozle and discombobulate Locker into turnovers. They might throw some different looks on their back end, but more than likely they will try to run around, over and through Washington's offensive line to get to the redshirt frosh signal-caller.

This game will be straight up, man versus man, strength versus strength. And simple, consistent play just might be the ticket to the Huskies punching their dance card all the way into the top-25. Top Stories